Seattle Now & Then: The Lake Union Dam Washout

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: From the Fremont Bridge, this subject looks northwest across the torrent that followed the washout of the Fremont Dam in the early afternoon of March 13, 1914.  Part of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill appears left-of-center.  The north end of the Stone Way Trestle appears in the upper right corner. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)
THEN: From the Fremont Bridge, this subject looks east northeast* across the torrent that followed the washout of the Fremont Dam in the early afternoon of March 13, 1914. Part of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill appears left-of-center. The north end of the Stone Way Trestle appears in the upper right corner. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: In the mid-1950s the former Bryant Mill site was converted into an industrial center, but it took until the 1990s for the site’s extensive architectural make-over to begin. On the Wallingford horizon many of the surviving homes predate the 1914 washout.
NOW: In the mid-1950s the former Bryant Mill site was converted into an industrial center, but it took until the 1990s for the site’s extensive architectural make-over to begin. On the Wallingford horizon many of the surviving homes predate the 1914 washout.
The Stone Way Bridge from the Westlake Ave. and Queen Anne side.  Across the bridge, above the center of the subject, the large box factory of Western Cooperage stands out.
The Stone Way Bridge from the Westlake Ave. and Queen Anne side. Across the bridge, above the center of the subject, the large box factory of Western Cooperage stands out.
South from 34th Street into the
South from 34th Street on December 27, 1997 into construction for the new tenants of the old Bryant Lumber Mill site east of the Fremont Bridge

Two sensational news photographs appear on the front page of the Friday, March 13, 1914, issue of The Seattle Times.  One is of the historic and deadly Missouri Athletic Club fire in St. Louis.  The other from Portland, Oregon, shows a “flame-wrapped” steam schooner drifting along the docks on the Willamette River “starting a new blaze at every place she bumped.”  Also sensational, standing above it all, the day’s headline reads FREMONT BRIDGE DESTROYED: Flood Threatened By Breaking Of Lake Union Dam.

Front page - top half - of The Seattle Times March 13, 1914 issue.
Front page – top half – of The Seattle Times March 13, 1914 issue.

[CLICK to ENLARGE]

The Seattle Times next day - March 14. 1914 - report.
The Seattle Times next day – March 14. 1914 – report.

Soon after the Fremont dam, constructed to control the level of Lake Union, broke in the early afternoon, the bridge did too. It was a little late for The Times to get a picture in that day’s evening addition. However, over the weekend, The Times featured several pictures of the flood, including one that was very similar to the historical photo used here.  Both photographers stood precariously close to the open center section of the Fremont Bridge that was swept away towards Ballard about two hours after the dam’s collapse.  The Times 1914 photo was taken later than this one, for in the newspaper’s illustration the water level is lower and the dam’s surviving wing gate pilings, also seen here, stand out more.  Employed by the city’s public works department, “our” photographer took several shots of the washout and its unsettling effects.

FREMONT BRIDGE, looking northwest.
FREMONT BRIDGE:  above, looking northwest. [Courtesy, Municipal Archive], below, looking east.
1. RJ fremont broken bridge 1914

During its nearly day-long outpouring, Lake Union dropped about nine feet.  Beside the bridge, at the lake’s north end the worst damage was to the railroad trestle along the north shore. At the south end of the lake the greatest casualty was the big new dock built by the then thirty-year-old Brace and Hergert lumber mill. Stacked with lumber, the exposed pilings supporting the dock gave way early Saturday morning.  Nearby, on the lake’s east shore, those among the “houseboat colonists” who had dared to keep to their floating homes were awakened by the crash.  By noon the houseboats tied to the shore were resting on the lake’s bottom at an angle that was good only for reading in bed.  Also by noon on Saturday it was clear that Ballard would not be washed away.

[Courtesy, MOHAI]
[Courtesy, MOHAI]

Fortunately for the several trolley lines that served Fremont, Wallingford, and Green Lake, as well as the interurban to Everett, the long temporary trestle crossing from Westlake to Stone Way, seen here in part on the right, did not collapse.  Traffic that normally crossed at Fremont was redirected there by Carl Signor, an alert neighbor with a hay, grain and flour store located near the south end of the Fremont Bridge.  The bridge collapsed soon after Signor’s timely signal.

WEB EXTRAS

Much to add this week, Paul?   Indeed, Jean and starting with an Edge-link to an opening day subject for the Fremont Bascule Bridge, followed by another beginning with the odd story of a crashed trolley in Fremont.  And following these pulls by Ron Edge, we will string out a variety of photos of the Fremont Bridge thru time and from different prospects, beginning with a few from Queen Anne Hill.  This chain will also  feature a few construction shots of the bascule bridge, which is, of course, the one we still cross.  We hope to be able to date them all – or nearly.

17web

THEN: The rear end of the derailed trolley on N. 35th Street appears right-of-center a few feet east of Albion Place N. and the curved track from which the unrestrained car jumped on the morning of August 21, 1903. (Courtesy, Fremont Historical Society)

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I have pulled this from SEATTLE  NOW  & THEN VOL. 1, which was first published in 1984 and then reprinted about three times.   I lived off it.  Hopefully the text is accurate.   On rereading old features I have found a few bloopers, I confess.  Usually mistakes of directions.  Still, question authority.  This appeared first in the Feb. 12, 1984 issue of Pacific Magazine.

[CLICK to Enlarge and make it readable – we hope.]

x-Fremont-dam-fm-Fremond-Bridge-1984-Feb.-12-Pacific-WEB

X-1984-Feb.-12-Pacific-Mag-Fremont-Dam-p2

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The FREMONT BRIDGE from QUEEN ANNE HILL

Probably the earliest extant panorama of Fremont from any prospect - circa 1891. The early low bridge is hard to make out in the emitting atmosphere of mill.
Probably the earliest extant panorama of Fremont from any prospect – circa 1891. The early low bridge is hard to make out through the  atmosphere of the mill.
The still "low bridge" in 1903, looking north again from Queen Anne.  A feature for this subject is included as the 58th "story" in Seattle Now and Then Volume Two.
The still “low bridge” in 1903, looking north again from Queen Anne. A feature for this subject is included as the 58th “story” in Seattle Now and Then Volume Two.
An Oakes "real photo" postcard from Ca. 1907.  Phinney Ridge is on the horizon.
An Oakes “real photo” postcard of what is still the “low bridge,” from Ca. 1907. Phinney Ridge is on the horizon with the forest of Woodland Park on the right.
Construction of the new "high bridge" in 1911.  Directly below is a detail showing the work-in-progress, on this lifting of the grade, at 34th and Fremont.
Construction of the new “high bridge” in 1911. Directly below is a detail showing the work-in-progress on this lifting of the grade, at 34th and Fremont.

2.-1911-detail-n.-end-of-bridge-34th-and-Fremont-WEB

Looking north into the same wide-body construction on the Fremont Bridge and dated June 21, 1911 (Courtesy, Municipal Archives)
Looking north into the same wide-body construction on the Fremont Bridge and dated June 21, 1911.  This is somewhat earlier than the subject above it, which shows that the bridge has been considerably widened on its east side while  here the “east lane” is still at the original elevation, on the right. (Courtesy, Municipal Archives)

2b  1911 FREMONT-HIGH-BIRDGE-now-web

The clip from Pacific on Nov. 28, 2004.
The clip from Pacific on Nov. 28, 2004. [Click to Enlarge]
Date March 18, 1915, this is the last of the old and short-lived high bridge.  Work on its bascule replacement ran from 1915 until it opening in 1917.
Date March 18, 1915, this is the last of the old and short-lived high bridge.  The disrupting work on its bascule replacement ran from 1915 until its opening in 1917.

The upheaval of early construction, again looking from the Queen Anne end, dated May 10, 1915.
The upheaval of early construction, again looking from the Queen Anne end, dated May 10, 1915.  [Courtesy, Municipal Archive]
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xa-1916 Fremont-Brdg-ConstructionTHEN-WEB

xa-June-22,-2003-Pacific,--Fremont-Bridge-early-bascule-work-lk-W.-WEB.-

Early Army Corps work on the canal, looking east to the low bridge, ca. 1903.
Early Army Corps work on the canal, looking east to the low bridge, ca. 1903.
Improvement on the Fremont Dam ca. 1903, looking east to the "Wallingford Peninsula" where the gas works were implanted in 1907.  Note the view of the dam directly below from 1907.  The gas works can be found along the north shore of Lake Union.  [Courtesy, Army Corps]
Improvement on the Fremont Dam ca. 1903, looking east to the “Wallingford Peninsula” where the gas works were implanted four years later in 1907. Note also the view of the dam directly below from 1907. There the gas works can be found along the north shore of Lake Union. [Courtesy, Army Corps]
The Fremont Bridge looking east from the "low bridge" circa, 1907.
The Fremont Bridge looking east from the “low bridge” circa, 1907.   Western Cooperage is on the far left, but the temporary Stone Way Bridge is still four years ahead.
A trolley car either heading for Fremont or leaving it crosses the "low bridge" as seen from the lower bridge that crossed the channel above the Fremont Dam.  Ca. 1907.
A trolley car heading for Fremont,  crosses the “low bridge” as seen from the lower bridge that crossed the channel above the here bubbling Fremont Dam. Ca. 1907.

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March 3, 1915, from the Fremont side looking southeast to the "high bridge" repaired after the 1914 collapse, but here soon to be razed for construction of the bascule replacement.
March 3, 1915, from the Fremont side looking southeast to the “high bridge” repaired after the 1914 collapse, but here soon to be razed for construction of the bascule replacement.
The Fremont spillway constructed with the 1914 repair of the collapse timber high bridge.  Dec. 11, 1914
The Fremont spillway constructed with the 1914 repair of the collapsed timber high bridge. Dec. 11, 1914   Below is the “now” of this pair that first appeared in Pacific on July 7, 2006.

xx- 1914  FREMONT-SPILLWAY-NOW-WEB

xx-7-16-2006-Fremont-Dam,--Spillway-lk-eWEB

A record of the spillway from the Queen Anne side, with lines drawn indicating the expected level of the canal once the locks are closed and the canal is flooded.  [Courtesy, Army Corps]
A record of the spillway (not spilling)  from the Queen Anne side, with lines drawn indicating the expected level of the canal once the locks are closed and the canal is flooded.  Again, that is the old pre-bascule short-lived high bridge beyond. [Courtesy, Army Corps]
Looking southeast through the open wings of the brand new Fremont Bascule Bridge.
Looking southeast through the open wings of the brand new but not yet opened to traffic  Fremont Bascule Bridge.

January 10, 1917 [Courtesy, Army Corps]
January 10, 1917.  This look was photographed some few days before the one above.  [Courtesy, Army Corps]
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Early work on the north pier being prepared for concrete,  March 23, 1916.
Early work on the north pier being prepared for concrete, March 23, 1916.
Some of the hardened results on the north pier, April 8, 1916.
Some of the hardened results on the north pier, April 8, 1916.
An "aerial" panorama (perhaps shot from the tower showing above the south pier in the photograph two above this one) looking west down the canal on May 4, 1916.
An “aerial” panorama (perhaps shot from the tower showing above the south pier in the photograph two above this one) looking west down the canal to a Ballardian sky  of mill smoke and airborne lefse particulates on May 4, 1916.
Here the daring photographer has turned around, again on May 4, 1916, to look west over the Stone Way Bridge and the smoking Gas Works to a Capitol Hill horizon.  Note the generations of Westlake (25 years worth) both hugging the shore and taking it on the right.  Dexter descends to the bridge, far right.
Here the daring photographer has turned around (again on May 4, 1916) to look west over the Stone Way Bridge and the smoking Gas Works to a Capitol Hill horizon. Note the generations of Westlake (25 years worth) off-shore,  hugging the shore and taking it on the right. Dexter descends to the bridge, far right.
Work on the north pier, July 7, 1916.
Work on the south pier, July 7, 1916.   The Bryant mill is on the left and the Stone Way Bridge on the right.
The South Pier from the north end on Aug. 17, 1916.
The South Pier from the north end on Aug. 17, 1916.

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“THE BUSIEST BASCULE IN THE U.S.A.”

Until the Aurora Bridge was completed in 1932, the bascule at Fremont was busy enough to be considered the busiest bridge of its kind in the U.S.A..  With the University Bridge it was one of the two primary funnels into the north city.
Until the Aurora Bridge was completed in 1932, the bascule at Fremont was busy enough to be considered the busiest bridge of its kind in the U.S.A.. With the University Bridge, it was one of the two primary funnels into the north city and beyond.   Here the “outbound traffic through Fremont” in the late afternoon of June 27, 1923, for the most part avoids the center of the street and the tracks for the several trolley lines – including the Seattle-Everett Interurban – that then used them.  In the mere fifteen years between the opening of the bascule and that of the flyover Aurora Bridge, Fremont prospered as a mill town and roadside attraction.
The congestion on August 15, 1923.
The congestion on August 15, 1923.
. . .  and sometime in 1924 (if memory service) when the serious talk about building a high bridge was elevating from warm to hot.
. . . and sometime in 1924 (if memory serves) when the serious talk about building a high bridge was itself arising from warm to hot, photographs like this were produced as evidence for the state legislature. [Courtesy, Municipal Archives]
The Aurora Bridge under construction
The Aurora Bridge under construction seen from the Fremont Bridge.
Thin traffic on the Fremont Bridge, looking north into Fremont,
Thin traffic on the Fremont Bridge, looking north into Fremont, April 18, 1939.   Within two years the trolley rails will be removed.

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FREMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY

If you find Fremont history alluring, as do I, you may want to join the Fremont Historical Society.   I took this portrait of its first members at its first meeting in the summer of 2004.   They are, left to right: Julie Pheasant-Albright, Audrey LIvermore, Roger Wheeler, Paul Fellows, Helen Divjak, Heather McAuliffe, and Carol Tobin.  The second picture below it was taken within a year (or so) at another FHS meeting, that in the Fremont Library.   At the bottom, the front page for the FHS web is added to help with your perhaps first search into Fremont history: finding and contacting the society.

zzzzFremont Heritage CoreLR

z,-Fremont-Hist-Soc-1st-Public-Meeting-Library-WEBxxxxxxx-Fremont-Historical-Society-web-page-WEB

UNDER THE BRIDGE, JUNE 15, 1917 QUIZ.    Which  end?

6.-June-15,-1917-Fremont-brdg-const-rr-soside-lkw-WEB

* CORRECTION:  The caption to the topmost photo – the primary one for the feature – incorrectly described it as looking northwest.  Actually, it looks northeast or to make a finer point of it, east-northeast.  Although I knew the correct direction I wrote it wrong and the regrettable truth is that I am too often using left for right and north for south and so on and on.  It might be that in this week’s blog, through its many pictures with directions,  I have done this stupidly more than once.  My editor at the Times has complained to me more than once about this.  However,  one direction I always get correct is up and down, and for that exception I am proud.  When readers correct my either dyslexic or careless/spaced-out mistakes they sometimes do it with such cosmological concern that it would seem for them that the world would sit askew until my  directional malaise is twisted back to health.   And now once more, and something like Atlas, I have leveraged the world back it its original pose with the north pole pointing to heaven and Wallingford, where I live, northeast of Fremont and much else.

4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Lake Union Dam Washout”

  1. As I commented on the Seattle Times online article:
    This view actually appears to look NORTHEAST, not northwest, based on its location at the west end of Lake Union (per map), the apparent location of Lake Union and the Stone Way trestle.
    Or if I am wrong and it really does look Northwest, please explain what I have missed.

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